A secret document that officials say played a key role in then-FBI director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has long been viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake, the Washington Post reports. In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI obtained what was described as a Russian intelligence document claiming a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server. The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.
Officials said Comey relied on the document in making his July decision to announce on his own that the investigation was over. That public announcement, in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence, set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats say helped Trump win the presidential election. According to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence, possibly a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The U.S. citizens mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. The document was a piece of purported analysis by Russian intelligence, the people said. It referred to an email supposedly written by the then-chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and sent to Leonard Benardo of the Open Society Foundations, an organization founded by billionaire George Soros.